The ability to learn and appropriately adapt movement is a crucial property of nervous systems. To successfully go about daily life, our nervous system must somehow cope with highly variable sensory and environmental states. The overall goal of our lab is to understand the principles underlying flexible sensorimotor function.
A necessary step for achieving this goal is to build a better picture of the sensory information available to the nervous system. The signals of human muscle spindle mechanoreceptors are of particular interest to our lab. The muscle spindle is the most complex sensory organ outside of the special senses, with its own efferent innervation. In fact, more neuronal axons are sent to and from spindle organs than to skeletal muscles themselves.
The focus of our recent research is to (i) determine whether the task-relevant control of muscle spindle receptors is an integral feature of motor learning, and (ii) determine the advantages of such control for sensorimotor performance. To achieve this we use several neurophysiological techniques, including microneurography to record from single mechanoreceptor afferents of humans performing voluntary movements in fundamental sensorimotor contexts. A bimanual robotic manipulandum fitted with a virtual reality interface is used for investigating behavioral implications of the neural findings, such as in terms of reflex motor behavior and proprioceptive acuity.